Paralympics London 2012

North Korea agrees to send athletes to Winter Olympics as talks begin with South

North Korea agreed to send a high level delegation to the South Korean Winter Olympics on Tuesday after the neighbouring countries held their first diplomatic talks in over two years. Pyongyang will allow athletes, cheering and performing art squads and taekwondo demonstration teams to attend games, which begin on February 9 in the resort of Pyeongchang. In a further sign of a possible détente, South Korea proposed a reunion of families who have been divided by the militarised border on the Korean Peninsula, requesting it take place around the Lunar New Year of February 16. Negotiators began talks about 10am local time in the Panmunjom “truce village” which straddles the heavily fortified border between the South and North. The tentative diplomatic thaw between the two sides has raised hopes of an eventual easing of tensions over Kim Jong-un’s nuclear weapons programme. South Korean army soldiers stand guard at a military check point on the Unification Bridge, linked to North Korea Credit: Bloomberg The meeting reportedly began in a jovial manner. Earlier, the North’s lead negotiator Ri Son Gwon, considered to be a regime hardliner, promised a “precious” New Year’s gift and “serious and sincere” talks. “They will go well,” he said. His counterpart from the South, Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon, said he would “handle the meeting calmly without being hasty to make the Pyeongchang Olympics and Paralympics a peaceful event, and make it a good first step to improve inter-Korean relations.” The first round of talks broke up around midday but are planned to resume in the afternoon. The initial focus of the agenda was North Korea’s expected participation in the February 9-25 Olympics and March 8-18 Paralympics in the South Korean ski village of Pyeongchang. It was reported that the two countries agreed to walk together during the opening ceremony. Kim Jong-un seen on television in South Korea delivering his new year message Credit: AFP Both South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim are able to listen in on the discussions and intervene if needed. Prior to the talks, Mr Moon’s government indicated that it did not know what North Korea’s main goals. The US administration admitted it was equally in the dark about Pyongyang’s true intentions ahead of the meeting, Brian Hook, a senior adviser to Rex Tillerson, US Secretary of State, told reporters on Tuesday. After a year of sabre-rattling on the Korean peninsula over Kim Jong-un’s nuclear and missiles programme, which have ignited fears of war, it is still unclear if Tuesday’s discussions will mark a turning point in Pyongyang’s wider relationship with Seoul and the international community. “The Secretary [of State] believes it is premature to judge whether this is the beginning of something. What we don’t know is what North Korea is going to bring to these discussions,” said Mr Hook. “The way we look at it is that it’s a start and we believe that if something could come out of those talks it would be a good thing but we expect that it will be mostly focussed around the Olympics.” The tentative rapprochement between North and South Korea was discussed by Mr Tillerson and Mr Trump at Camp David over the weekend. The President called the talks a “big start”, saying he hoped for progress, in a marked shift of tone to his tweets earlier in the week when he had boasted that he had a “bigger nuclear button” that Kim Jong-un. However, American and Japanese officials have also sought reassurances from South Korea that the discussions will not undermine United Nations sanctions aimed at pressuring Kim to give up his nuclear weapons ambitions. Some experts remain sceptical about Pyongyang’s latest move, believing that its purpose is to drive a wedge between Seoul and Washington, and that the North may try to make unreasonable demands like a moratorium on joint US-South Korea military drills. “As President Moon has said, the improvement of relations between North and South Korea cannot advance separately from resolving North Korea’s nuclear programme,” Mr Hook underlined. “And so we remain focussed on our global pressure campaign. That campaign is designed to bring Kim Jong-un to the table for meaningful negotiations,” he said. “Our policy, our end stage of the pressure campaign, remains the complete verifiable, irreversible denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.”

14-year-old refugee from Syria dreams of Paralympics

Najib Alhaj Ali is 14 years old. Two years ago he was left with a spinal cord injury, unable to feel anything below his naval, after a bomb attack on his home in in Homs, Syria. His father took him to a make-shift clinic after the attack but did not manage to get treatment. His family decided to escape the war in Syria, and crossed the Mediterranean Sea on rubber dinghy from Turkey to Greece, where they eventually were granted asylum in 2016. Thanks to Para sport, the future is looking brighter for Najib.... "I'm happy and I'm feeling better because he's playing sport. His attitude is changing. Sport is bringing him out of his shell. I hope that god gives him luck." said Najib’s mother, Faten Shahuod. "I hope that he will get in touch with people, get to know them better, especially the people who are in similar situation as him." "This could encourage him. That is what encourages me." "It's not only about winning." Since October 2016, Najib has participated in the Paralympic Education Development in Refugee Populations, a project funded by the Agitos Foundation’s Grant Support Programme (GSP) and supported by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR). In the last two years the Agitos Foundation has provided opportunities for the most vulnerable refugees, those with an impairment, to find a tool for social inclusion through para sport and a better life.  A year after starting training , Najib has taken part in two national competitions in Greece, and in December made his debut at the International Wheelchair Federation's World Games 2017 in Vila Real de Santo Antonio in Portugal. "We are here to compete, to show Najib some things, to add some inspiration to his life." said Christina Marouda, Najib's Trainer. "And maybe get a small personal best even though we've been working only for short time." Invited by IWAS and the Agitos Foudation, the 14-year-old to competed in the U18s 100m and 200m wheelchair racing, and also took the opportunity for international World Para Athletics classification. "I am really happy because I met new people from Brazil, UAE and others." said Najib. "When I go back to Greece I will train more. Instead of one hour I will train for two. Instead of two I will train for three. So I can start winning races." "My dream is to get more treatment, to continue my studies, and compete in the Paralympics."

Paralympic racer Tanni Grey-Thompson stopped from boarding train

Paralympic champion Tanni Grey-Thompson has spoken of being blocked from boarding a train after a passenger told staff there was no room for her and her wheelchair.

Paralympic legend Tanni Grey-Thompson blocked from boarding a train in wheelchair

Men work at the construction site of the New National Stadium, the main stadium of Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, in Tokyo

Men work at the construction site of the New National Stadium, the main stadium of Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, in Tokyo, Japan December 22, 2017. REUTERS/Issei Kato

The construction site of the New National Stadium, main stadium of Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, is seen in Tokyo, Japan

The construction site of the New National Stadium, main stadium of Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, is seen in Tokyo, Japan December 22, 2017. REUTERS/Issei Kato

Men looks at the construction site of the New National Stadium, main stadium of Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, in Tokyo

Men looks at the construction site of the New National Stadium, main stadium of Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, in Tokyo, Japan December 22, 2017. REUTERS/Issei Kato

Logo of Japanese construction company Taisei Corporation is seen on a crane at the construction site of New National Stadium for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo

The logo of Japanese construction company Taisei Corporation is seen on a crane at the construction site of New National Stadium for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo, Japan December 22, 2017. REUTERS/Issei Kato

A man works at the construction site of the New National Stadium, main stadium of Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, in Tokyo

A man works at the construction site of the New National Stadium, main stadium of Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, in Tokyo, Japan December 22, 2017. REUTERS/Issei Kato

Men looks at the construction site of the New National Stadium, main stadium of Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, in Tokyo, Japan

Men looks at the construction site of the New National Stadium, main stadium of Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, in Tokyo, Japan December 22, 2017. REUTERS/Issei Kato

Logos of Japanese construction company Taisei Corporation are seen at a gate of the construction site of New National Stadium for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo, Japan

Logos of Japanese construction company Taisei Corporation are seen at a gate of the construction site of New National Stadium for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo, Japan December 22, 2017. REUTERS/Issei Kato

Andrew Parsons, International Paralympic Committee President, poses next to the Paralympic Games symbol in front of the Hotel de Ville City Hall in Paris

FILE PHOTO - Andrew Parsons, International Paralympic Committee President, poses next to the Paralympic Games symbol in front of the Hotel de Ville City Hall in Paris, France November 10, 2017. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

FILE PHOTO: South African Olympic and Paralympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius leaving the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria

FILE PHOTO: South African Olympic and Paralympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius leaves the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, South Africa, October 15, 2014. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko/File Photo

FILE PHOTO: Logos of Japanese construction company Taisei Corporation are seen at a gate of construction site of New National Stadium for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo

FILE PHOTO: Logos of Japanese construction company Taisei Corporation are seen at a gate of construction site of New National Stadium for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo, Japan May 26, 2017. REUTERS/Issei Kato/File Photo

A logo of Odebrecht is seen at the Olympic and Paralympic Village in Rio de Janeiro in 2016

West Ham in row with London Stadium landlords over bid to increase capacity

West Ham and their London Stadium landlords are involved in a legal dispute over plans for 3,000 additional seats. West Ham are the lead tenants of the former Olympic Stadium on a £2.5million per year, 99-year lease. The Premier League club wish to add 9,000 seats to take the capacity of the arena to 66,000, Gerry Murphy, the acting chief executive of the London Legacy Development Corporation told the London Assembly on Wednesday. West Ham say their first wish is to add 3,000 seats to their present 57,000 capacity "to initially reach a capacity of 60,000, as was promised publicly to our supporters by all London Stadium stakeholders". The dispute with the LLDC centres on the operating costs of making the additional seats available for use - they are already in the arena - plus the revenue from those seats if they are made available. Murphy told a London Assembly Budget Monitoring Sub-Committee meeting: "There is a dispute with West Ham about what the contract says in terms of capacity. "West Ham have absolutely said that they want to increase the capacity to 60,000. And actually they want to further increase the capacity to 66,000. "LLDC and E20 (the landlords) disagrees with their interpretation of the contract. "We feel that actually if West Ham want to enjoy more seats then they should commensurately pay more. "And that's the gist of the disagreement between us and it is subject to legal proceedings." West Ham say they are already paying for a 60,000-seat stadium. That is the capacity the club announced in March 2016. A West Ham spokesperson said in a statement issued to Press Association Sport: "These seats are in London Stadium already, have always been there, and have already been paid for under the terms of our concession agreement. What is your favourite 'new' football stadium? "Having sought a resolution of this matter for many months, West Ham United are seeking a legal declaration." Murphy says the Hammers began to ask for the increased capacity at the start of 2017-18 season, their second after leaving Upton Park in May 2016. Asked who would benefit from the revenue from any additional seating, Murphy said: "West Ham's argument is they would receive all of the extra revenue from the extra seats. We would contend we should get a share of that." The Hammers argue all on the site would benefit from additional supporters attending matches. LLDC receives a flat fee from the tenancy agreement, plus a share of the catering revenue. Murphy admitted, under the current agreement made by her predecessors, LLDC makes an ongoing loss. "The matchday costs will continue at some level to exceed the revenue that we get," she said. Wednesday's meeting followed the publication of the Moore Stephens Olympic Stadium Review, which reported in November on the arena built for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and funded by tax payers. LLDC will actively seek a naming rights sponsor in 2018, bidding to raise £4m a year, after talks with telecoms giant Vodafone ended. "We have been close twice and I'm confident we'll find the right partner," Murphy said. There is a possibility of talks with West Ham over tying in the naming rights sponsor with the shirt sponsor. But LLDC hope the multiple uses of the stadium, which also hosts athletics, musical concerts and other sporting events will be attractive without that tie-in.    

Lottery funds for good causes fall 15pc as players turn their backs on draw-based games

National Lottery players are turning their backs on draw-based games, triggering a drop in income for charities and other good causes that receive funding support from the state-backed lottery scheme. According to the National Audit Office (NAO), the Government's spending watchdog, good causes income fell by 15pc to £1.63bn in the year to April. Returns for good causes are higher from sales of draw-based lottery games, which dropped 13pc, than for scratch cards and instant-win games, which fell by 2pc, NAO's report said. Around 34p per £1 spent on draw-based games bought online is given to good causes, compared to 5-10p for scratch cards. Camelot, which operates the National Lottery, told the NAO that scratch cards and instant-win games returned less to good causes due to the need to offer a higher proportion of proceeds as prizes to encourage consumers to participate. Lottery sales fell by 9pc to £6.93bn in the 2016-17 tax year, and Camelot predicts a further fall in sales and income for good causes in 2017-18. However, the report found that Camelot's profits had been proportionately greater than increases in both lottery sales and returns for good causes. Good causes income from the National Lottery funds a number of projects, including Olympic and Paralympic athletes Credit: Shutterstock Camelot’s accounts show that lottery sales rose 27pc to £6.9bn between 2009-10 and 2016-17. Over the same period, returns for good causes increased by 2pc to £1.5bn, and Camelot’s profit for its shareholders increased by 22pc to £71m. A Camelot spokesman said: "The NAO report restates what we publicly acknowledged back in June in relation to National Lottery sales and returns to good causes. Since then, we have carried out a wide-ranging strategic review of the business and announced strong plans to get the National Lottery back into growth next year and raising as much money as possible for good causes. "We continue to return around 95pc of all National Lottery revenue back to winners and society, one of the highest percentages in the world. In contrast, our profit after tax is around just 1pc of total revenue."

Lottery funds for good causes fall 15pc as players turn their backs on draw-based games

National Lottery players are turning their backs on draw-based games, triggering a drop in income for charities and other good causes that receive funding support from the state-backed lottery scheme. According to the National Audit Office (NAO), the Government's spending watchdog, good causes income fell by 15pc to £1.63bn in the year to April. Returns for good causes are higher from sales of draw-based lottery games, which dropped 13pc, than for scratch cards and instant-win games, which fell by 2pc, NAO's report said. Around 34p per £1 spent on draw-based games bought online is given to good causes, compared to 5-10p for scratch cards. Camelot, which operates the National Lottery, told the NAO that scratch cards and instant-win games returned less to good causes due to the need to offer a higher proportion of proceeds as prizes to encourage consumers to participate. Lottery sales fell by 9pc to £6.93bn in the 2016-17 tax year, and Camelot predicts a further fall in sales and income for good causes in 2017-18. However, the report found that Camelot's profits had been proportionately greater than increases in both lottery sales and returns for good causes. Good causes income from the National Lottery funds a number of projects, including Olympic and Paralympic athletes Credit: Shutterstock Camelot’s accounts show that lottery sales rose 27pc to £6.9bn between 2009-10 and 2016-17. Over the same period, returns for good causes increased by 2pc to £1.5bn, and Camelot’s profit for its shareholders increased by 22pc to £71m. A Camelot spokesman said: "The NAO report restates what we publicly acknowledged back in June in relation to National Lottery sales and returns to good causes. Since then, we have carried out a wide-ranging strategic review of the business and announced strong plans to get the National Lottery back into growth next year and raising as much money as possible for good causes. "We continue to return around 95pc of all National Lottery revenue back to winners and society, one of the highest percentages in the world. In contrast, our profit after tax is around just 1pc of total revenue."

FILE PHOTO: South African Olympic and Paralympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius leaving the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria

FILE PHOTO: South African Olympic and Paralympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius leaves the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, South Africa, October 15, 2014. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko/File Photo

Tokyo's 2020 mascots to be chosen by kids

Tokyo 2020 organizers have unveiled on Thursday (December 12) three pairs of candidate mascots for the Olympic and Paralympic games. They have also announced that elementary school students will be the ones to vote for the winning pair. Each class in all elementary schools across Japan will have one vote and will have until February 22, 2019 to send their ballot.   The official mascots will then be presented to the public on February 28, 2019 after counting.  The organizer's initiative is a bid to raise children's interest in the event. The selection committee said a total of 2,042 mascot ideas have been received since August, when the design competition began. The shortlisted candidates mostly feature cats, foxes and raccoon, animals which are believed to bring fortune according to Japanese culture. 

Tokyo's 2020 mascots to be chosen by kids

Tokyo 2020 organizers have unveiled on Thursday (December 12) three pairs of candidate mascots for the Olympic and Paralympic games. They have also announced that elementary school students will be the ones to vote for the winning pair. Each class in all elementary schools across Japan will have one vote and will have until February 22, 2019 to send their ballot.   The official mascots will then be presented to the public on February 28, 2019 after counting.  The organizer's initiative is a bid to raise children's interest in the event. The selection committee said a total of 2,042 mascot ideas have been received since August, when the design competition began. The shortlisted candidates mostly feature cats, foxes and raccoon, animals which are believed to bring fortune according to Japanese culture. 

Tokyo's 2020 mascots to be chosen by kids

Tokyo 2020 organizers have unveiled on Thursday (December 12) three pairs of candidate mascots for the Olympic and Paralympic games. They have also announced that elementary school students will be the ones to vote for the winning pair. Each class in all elementary schools across Japan will have one vote and will have until February 22, 2019 to send their ballot.   The official mascots will then be presented to the public on February 28, 2019 after counting.  The organizer's initiative is a bid to raise children's interest in the event. The selection committee said a total of 2,042 mascot ideas have been received since August, when the design competition began. The shortlisted candidates mostly feature cats, foxes and raccoon, animals which are believed to bring fortune according to Japanese culture. 

Tokyo's 2020 mascots to be chosen by kids

Tokyo 2020 organizers have unveiled on Thursday (December 12) three pairs of candidate mascots for the Olympic and Paralympic games. They have also announced that elementary school students will be the ones to vote for the winning pair. Each class in all elementary schools across Japan will have one vote and will have until February 22, 2019 to send their ballot.   The official mascots will then be presented to the public on February 28, 2019 after counting.  The organizer's initiative is a bid to raise children's interest in the event. The selection committee said a total of 2,042 mascot ideas have been received since August, when the design competition began. The shortlisted candidates mostly feature cats, foxes and raccoon, animals which are believed to bring fortune according to Japanese culture. 

Suspected Russian hoaxers target former IPC head Philip Craven

Sir Philip Craven resigned as IPC president last year but was responsible for banning Russia from the Paralympics in Rio.

Pippa Middleton leads campaign to promote disability snow sports ahead of the Paralympics in South Korea

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